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Who'll Be The Next Bloke For Stoke?

Thursday 23rd May 2013
This week, Bruce Halling offers his thoughts over possible contenders for the Stoke managerial vacancy following the departure of Tony Pulis.

I have to confess, I was quite surprised when I heard the news that Tony Pulis was leaving the Potters. Certainly their second half of this season left a lot to be desired and they were very nearly dragged right into the relegation dogfight, but you could say the same for a number of teams that finished in the bottom half of the table. I can only speculate and wonder if Stoke were worried about this being the early signs of a decline that may have continued into next season, so wanted to make a change now to nip it in the bud before it actually happened, but they have now left themselves in a bit of an awkward position.

I say this because Stoke aren't seen as a particularly fashionable club, despite the fact they've been a solid mid-table team for a number of years now, so may struggle to attract a big-name manager to fill the post – particularly when the job at Everton is also available and will be seen as a far better options to those managers looking to land themselves a nice position in the Premier League. That said, I've put together a list of five names who I believe would be able to go to Stoke and do a good job.

Roberto Martinez

Martinez has long been linked with positions at other Premier League clubs. Last summer, he turned down Aston Villa and was mentioned as a credible candidate for the Liverpool job (although I'm not sure he would have been many people's first choice). Since then, I think his stock has risen tremendously, having won the FA Cup with Wigan. The fact they were then promptly relegated from the Premier League I don't think has affected Martinez's reputation all that much.

In many ways, it may have done Martinez a big favour. He will clearly manage a bigger club than Wigan in the future, but I'm not sure he would have left the DW Stadium had the Latics survived for another season, but I now think it's a different scenario. He is also a contender for the Everton job, but Stoke may suit him better. He'll be under less immediate pressure for results, and Stoke come readily armed with a strong defensive ethos – something critics of Martinez will say has been his weakness over the years.

Gus Poyet

Poyet finds himself in a bit of a sticky situation at Brighton, having been suspended by the club pending an enquiry as to whether his comments about ‘where him and the club go from here' following their playoff semi-final defeat to Crystal Palace. I'm not sure whether the club necessarily made the right move to suspend Poyet in the first place, but now they have, it could be difficult for them to keep hold of him going forwards. It wouldn't surprise me to see him leave the club.

It would undoubtedly be a tremendous loss for Brighton, who have come a very long way under Poyet, and his credentials make him a contender for the Stoke job. He would bring a very different style of play to that seen at the Britannia under Pulis, but that could also work in his favour as the club are perhaps looking to make a fresh start under a new manager. I believe Poyet could be a very strong contender for the job, especially if he leaves Brighton – as I expect he will.

Paul Lambert

I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of Paul Lambert but I think he's probably done a better job that people give him credit for at Aston Villa. People look at Villa and remember the team that were regularly battling in the top eight or ten, but it's a very different club now and they are operating on a significantly smaller budget. Lambert's managed to work with what he's got, and he's brought on some very good young players there this season, which you have to give him credit for.

Stoke would suit him very well. The main critique of Villa this season has been a lack of experience, particularly in defence. Stoke already have that, so perhaps Lambert's style would be a very good fit at the Britannia. I have no doubt as well that if he was offered the opportunity, he'd take it. He doesn't have a reputation for being particularly loyal, so it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if he jumped, should the opportunity arise.

Stuart McCall

It's easy to forget about pretty much every other team in Scotland other than Celtic, at least in terms of competing for major honours on a regular basis, but the fact McCall has led Motherwell to second place in the SPL this season and been named SPL Manager of the Year tells you that the job he's done at Fir Park is deemed more impressive than Celtic winning a league that they should be able to win with one arm tied behind their back.

It's no surprise that Sheffield United want McCall as their next boss, but if I'm being honest, he could do much better than League One. I can't imagine he'd be a particularly strong contender in many people's eyes to move to the Britannia, but he's already proven that he can provide results in a competitive environment on a relatively modest budget. I would personally say he could step in to the hotseat at Stoke and do a very competent job, but I suspect he won't be considered at this stage.

Rafa Benitez

Undoubtedly, Benitez is the biggest name on this list and his credentials speak volumes. Honours in Spain, England, and at European level make Benitez one of the most attractive names available on the managerial market at current, yet he found himself in a position at Chelsea where many believed he needed to prove a point after a spell at Inter Milan which left a lot to be desired. If he did need to prove anything – which I don't personally believe he did – he accomplished that in his time at Stamford Bridge.

The rumour mill suggests he could be in line for the job at PSG, if Ancelotti is allowed to move to Real Madrid, but I wouldn't rule out seeing Rafa in the dugout ‘on a cold Tuesday evening at the Britannia'. He's said on more than one occasion how much he enjoys managing in England, and what does a man who has won almost everything do next? Perhaps if Peter Coates can sell the idea of a project to Benitez, allowing him time and money to build a team, he might just fancy the challenge.
Bruce Halling
Bruce is a 24-year-old self-confessed Football League addict and author of the 'Road To The Promised Land' column. He is a passionate Southend United fan who has witnessed the Shrimpers' rise to the Championship as well as their more recent fall back to their current position in League Two. Though he doesn’t get to many games as a spectator, he has worked at Southend, Colchester United and now Queens Park Rangers as a steward, so is never too far away from the action on a matchday. Away from football, he is a Politics graduate and currently jobhunting. Follow Bruce on Twitter @brucehalling

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